Tag Archives: Medicare

Promise made … promise broken

Donald Trump made a solemn vow while campaigning for the presidency of the United States of America.

He said he wouldn’t be a typical Republican. He said he would leave Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security spending alone. He wouldn’t touch them. He would solve the nation’s budgetary woes — as he defined them — without laying a hand on those valuable social programs.

So, what does the president do when he presents his fiscal year 2020 federal budget? He proposes cuts to Medicare by $845 billion, cuts for Medicaid by $1.5 trillion and reduces Social Security spending by $25 billion.

His record-setting budget of $4.75 trillion does add money for the Department of Defense.

Broken promises

My point here is that Donald Trump persuaded many American voters that he would leave these coveted programs alone.

OK, he has officially stuck it in our household’s eye. My wife and I are retired Americans. We draw from our Social Security accounts and we also depend on Medicare to help with our health care needs; I also have Veterans Administration benefits to assist with my health care issues.

Is this the bargain the nation got when it elected this promise-breaker president of the United States?

Socialism is a serious straw man

Donald J. Trump stood before a joint congressional session and received his share of cheers — mostly from Republicans sitting in front of him — during his State of the Union speech.

One applause line deserves a brief comment here. He declared, without an ounce of equivocation, that the United States is never going to become a “socialist nation.”

GOP lawmakers stood and cheered. So did a handful of Democrats.

Why mention this here? Because the president of the United States only revealed his acute command of the obvious.

He was taking a direct shot at one member of the Senate, Vermont independent Bernie Sanders. He also was targeting a handful of House Democrats, too, namely the rookie lawmaker, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has become a media superstar while serving for an entire month in the House of Representatives.

Is the president’s declaration actually intended to stave off some hidden stampede toward socialism? He clearly intends with that statement to stoke some kind of made-up fear that there is enough support in Congress to allow for a government takeover of heavy industry. He is breeding panic among those who believe that the United States of America is going to forgo capitalism in favor of socialism.

Let’s catch our breath. There is no way in the world that the United States of America is going to adopt a socialistic economy.

The issues that some congressional progressives can be resolved without converting our economy from one that produces individual wealth to something that distributes wealth evenly among all 300 million-plus Americans.

“Medicare For All” is no more of a socialistic solution than, say, the original Medicare was when it was enacted in 1965. Or when Social Security became law in 1935. Yet lawmakers and, yes, the president insist that the Affordable Care Act — President Obama’s signature domestic policy initiative — marches the nation down the road toward socialism.

There remains a tremendous amount of individual wealth in this country. I happen to believe firmly that individual wealth will continue to flourish likely until the end of time — whenever that occurs! Socialism, as I understand the meaning of the concept, seeks to redistribute wealth through some nefarious government grab of individual assets.

Does anyone seriously believe that is going to happen? Ever?

If you believe it, then you likely have swilled the Kool-Aid dispensed by demagogues who flourish in a climate of fear.

TEA Party? Where have you gone?

Don’t you remember when the 2010 midterm election produced a “shellacking” of the Democrats? It was delivered by what was then called the TEA Party.

Eight years ago, the TEA Party was the dominant insurgent force within the Republican Party. The TEA Party comprised Republicans who were fed up with being taxed too much.

Indeed, in recent years I’ve been using the term “TEA Party” in all capital letters, because it was born of a movement that proclaimed itself to be “Taxed Enough Already,” hence TEA Party is an acronym.

The TEA Party drove then-House Speaker John Boehner — a leader of the “establishment wing” of the Republican Party — to just this side of nuts. Indeed, U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Clarendon Republican and a friend/ally of Boehner, told me he believed Boehner was going to bail from the House because he was tired of battling the rebels within his GOP caucus.

It turned out Thornberry was right. Boehner quit the speakership and the House in 2015. He’d had enough.

The TEA Party has its share of lawmakers who’ve taken their message forward. Ted Cruz of Texas is one of them.

But since about 2016, we hear less of the TEA Party and more of another insurgent group of Republican lawmakers calling themselves the Freedom Caucus. It, too, is a low-tax outfit committed to cutting government spending on programs that have become part of the national fabric. You know, programs such as Medicare, Medicaid … those kinds of things.

The Freedom Caucus has picked up where the TEA Party (seemingly) left off in opposing the Affordable Care Act. They want to repeal the ACA, but I haven’t heard about whether to simply repair the ACA, make it better, preserve those elements of it that are working.

The Freedom Caucus has become every bit the political gadfly that the TEA Party became to the point of sending a speaker of the House of Representatives packing in the middle of his term.

It’s not that I miss the TEA Party. I don’t. I’m just wondering out loud how these movements come and go and how replacement insurgencies come to the fore.

I happen to favor good government, not necessarily big government. The TEA Party — wherever it is — wants to gut government. As one who appreciates the role government plays to improve people’s lives, I wouldn’t mind one bit if the TEA Party would simply vanish, never to be heard from again.

Same for the Freedom Caucus.

ACA is actually doing what it’s supposed to do

Let’s talk about health insurance, OK?

The highly partisan agency, the U.S. Census Bureau, has come up with some data that illustrate the difficulty the Republicans in Congress — and the pseudo-Republican in the White House — have had difficulty in repealing the Affordable Care Act.

The Census Bureau reports that the rolls of uninsured Americans has continued to decline since the enactment of the ACA. It’s now down to 8.8 percent this past year, down 0.3 percent from 2015.

Prior to implementation of the ACA, the uninsured rate stood at 13.3 percent, according to the Census Bureau.

Oh, by the way, I’m joking about the Census Bureau being full of partisan hacks.

The news isn’t all good for the ACA. A Gallup Poll indicates an increase in uninsured Americans stemming largely from the uncertainty over the ACA’s future.

Mend it, don’t end it.

I remain committed to the notion, though, that the ACA can be fine-tuned, improved, tweaked and tinkered with. It need not be scrapped, tossed onto the scrap heap, which is what congressional Republicans and Donald J. Trump want to do.

Need I remind readers of this blog that Medicare’s enactment in 1965 was followed by the a round of tinkering? President Lyndon Johnson managed to persuade his fellow Democrats and his many Republican allies on Capitol Hill to improve the landmark health insurance program. The program works well for elderly Americans.

Why in the name of compromise and cooperation can’t we find that formula today? What is stopping congressional Republicans who control Capitol Hill from working hand-in-glove with Democrats to improve the ACA? President Barack Obama implored both sides on Capitol Hill to improve it if they were so inclined; he said he was all in on any effort to make the ACA work better for more Americans.

Republicans were having none of it. “We gotta repeal it!” they bellowed. Well, they had their chance after Trump got elected president. The president failed to deliver the goods. GOP leaders in Congress failed as well. The ACA remains the law. It figures to stay that way for the foreseeable future — if not longer.

Republicans say they intend to keep yapping about repealing the ACA and replacing it with something else. The voices are growing a bit more muted in sticking to that mantra.

That’s fine with me. Repeal isn’t the only answer. Surely there’s a way to make the ACA work for even more Americans.

Trump ponders new display of heartlessness

Donald John Trump Sr.’s next potential display of heartless public policy would hit yours truly a good bit more personally.

The president is now considering whether to end government subsidies of health insurance plans until Congress repeals the Affordable Care Act. Such a move would render health insurance utterly unaffordable for millions of Americans. I happen to know that because our household benefited greatly from the subsidy.

Does the president have a clue as to what he’s pondering? Does he have any feeling in what passes for a heart for those who would be affected by a decision to pull the plug on these subsidies?

My wife and I had to purchase health insurance to cover my wife after her post-employment insurance plan expired. The ACA required us to purchase it under the “individual mandate” provision. We sought counsel with our insurance agent, who shopped around for a provider who could cover us. She found it and then we applied online — through healthcare.gov — for the subsidy; we got it approved and my wife was able to be covered by health insurance under the ACA.

That policy expired the day she became eligible for Medicare.

But the point here is that if Trump decides to end the ACA subsidy, he is going to deprive millions of Americans — just like my wife and me — of an opportunity to purchase health insurance.

This is how Trump is proposing to let the ACA “implode”?

At what cost, Mr. President?

So help me, Donald Trump Sr. disgusts me to my core.

Why not repair ACA instead of repealing it?

Barack H. Obama used to say it all the time: If Republicans have any improvements they want to make to the Affordable Care Act, I am willing to work it with them.

The Democratic president was open to tinkering with the ACA. He said he was keeping an open mind on ways to improve his signature piece of domestic legislation.

Then his time as president expired. His successor, Donald J. Trump, had vowed to “repeal and replace” the ACA starting with Day One of his presidency. He has labeled the ACA a “disaster.”

But the president can’t seem to bring himself to persuade his fellow Republicans in Congress to do as his predecessor has suggested regarding improving the ACA. They have dug in hard in their effort to repeal and replace the ACA. Trump has joined them. They now are left to fighting among themselves over the best way to replace the ACA.

The ACA is not the “disaster” that Trump has asserted about it. The law has provided health insurance for more than 20 million Americans who couldn’t afford it.

I am willing to concede that the ACA isn’t perfect. However, it is the law of the land. Why in the world can’t the GOP pick the law apart, huddle with Democrats, agree on what’s working and then seek to reform the elements of the ACA that aren’t working?

Oh, no. They cannot go there. The intention among the GOP leadership is to throw out every vestige of the ACA because, I’m going to presume, it has President Obama’s imprimatur. The Republican congressional caucus had declared its intention to make Obama “a one-term president,” and the ACA — approved in 2010 — simply had to go.

Tinkering and mending this law doesn’t constitute an unprecedented solution. Congress did as much with Medicare in the 1960s and with Social Security in the 1930s.

They managed — somehow — to improve those other two pieces of landmark legislation.

What about the here and now?

Why not just repair Obamacare?

All this talk about repealing the Affordable Care Act seems to ignore a possible alternative that’s been done already with other landmark legislation.

Congressional Republicans have been adamant about getting rid of the ACA. They’ve had six years to find a replacement mechanism to provide health insurance to Americans who cannot afford it otherwise. They have failed. They’ve come up with … nothing!

The alternative to flat-out repeal is to repair the ACA.

Congress enacted Medicare in 1965 to provide medical insurance to elderly Americans. It wasn’t perfect, either. Congress and President Johnson got together to tinker with it, to fine-tune it, to make it better. The same can be said of what Congress and other president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, did with Social Security when they created that program in 1935.

Reasonable minds can come together to make landmark laws better. It’s been done. Why not now?

Well, my theory is that it’s because the ACA has President Obama’s name on it. It’s been called Obamacare chiefly by those who use that term as a pejorative. They don’t like something that carries the name of a president who House and Senate Republicans have opposed since the beginning of his time in the White House.

I get that the ACA isn’t perfect. I understand that premiums have increased, that health insurance companies are bailing out, that consumers are having trouble finding doctors who will treat those covered by insurance provided by the ACA.

Aren’t there reasonable solutions to fix these problems? Can’t the ACA opponents huddle with those in Congress who support the plan to repair the law?

Oh, no! They’ve got to toss the ACA into the trash heap. They want to declare victory by calling it a “monumental failure,” a “disaster,” a “terrible idea.”

Twenty million Americans have health insurance today who didn’t have it before the ACA became law in 2010. Congressional Republicans are quite sure they can repeal the ACA. Finding a replacement is a bit more of a hurdle.

They have precedent, though, for seeking ways to repair what many folks believe is a flawed idea.

Compromise, folks! That’s how you govern effectively. You either have Americans’ interests at heart, or you are thinking only of your own political futures.

Turns out Medicare comes in quite handy

Retirement

This is the latest in an occasional series of blog posts commenting on upcoming retirement.

You’ve heard the story already.

I’m not yet retired fully from the working world. However, I am enjoying many of the benefits of retirement.

My wife and I pay a little less for meals at buffet-style restaurants; we get AARP discounts at hotels; our property taxes, under Texas law, are frozen in perpetuity … and we are on Medicare!

The closest thing we have in this country to “socialized medicine” comes in quite handy, I learned yesterday.

The company where I work part time was handing out flu shots to employees. You had to be covered by company-sponsored insurance to qualify, given that the company was paying for the inoculations.

I work there part time, right? I am not insured by the company plan. I brought up my Veterans Administration coverage to the woman who was administering the shots. I had to get my shot at the VA clinic in Amarillo. Oh, darn.

Hey, what about Medicare? She checked with her office. No problem! Medicare’s insurance pays for it.

So, I got my shot hassle free.

Yes, indeed, this retirement thing — which hasn’t yet arrived fully for my wife and me — is turning out all right.

We’ve already paid into the Medicare program throughout our working lives. We now are getting some of the benefit back from the program that was founded in 1965 when President Lyndon Johnson signed the bill that created the law.

Thank you, Mr. President.

What would LBJ think of today’s political climate?

LBJ

JOHNSON CITY, Texas — What would Lyndon think of what happened today?

We’ve spent the past three nights in President Johnson’s beloved Texas Hill Country and it was in this tranquil environment that we heard the news out of Washington — that House Speaker John Boehner is resigning his speakership and his congressional seat at the end of October.

The reaction from across the political spectrum? Well, President Obama — with whom Boehner has had many enormous differences — called him a “patriot” and a “good man.”

The reaction from the right wing of the speaker’s Republican Party? They cheered the news. Good riddance, Mr. Speaker.

Right wingers are smiling at the news. They want the speaker out of there.

Which brings me back to Lyndon Johnson.

LBJ was a proud Democrat. He also was a supreme legislator, thought by many to be the greatest Senate majority leader in the history of the “world’s greatest deliberative body.”

He took his legislative skill with him to the vice presidency and then — in that spasm of violence on Nov. 22, 1963 — to the presidency.

How do you suppose he earned the legislative kudos? He earned them by knowing how to compromise and how to get his friends in the other party to join him in enacting critical legislation. The Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, enactment of Medicare? All three of those landmarks were achieved with bipartisan support engineered in large part by the president of the United States.

Today, the mood and the atmosphere is different. Arch-conservatives — and, for that matter, ultraliberals — would rather fall on their proverbial grenades than compromise with politicians they see as enemies, and not just adversaries.

Lyndon Johnson would be an unhappy man were he to rise from his grave in Stonewall and see what has happened to the two great political parties that at one time knew how to work together to get things done for the common good.

In that respect, the president likely would throw his arm around Speaker Boehner, wish him well and hope for the return of better days atop Capitol Hill.

 

 

The older I get, the more I sound like Dad

This is the latest in an occasional series of blog posts commenting on impending retirement.

“I keep opening my mouth and my mother keeps coming out.”

I saw that saying once and laughed when I heard it. I never thought I’d be living it.

What do I mean? Well, my father had this habit of adding years to his life. It seems that whenever he celebrated a birthday he would start referencing his next birthday whenever the question of his age came up. The next-year reference wouldn’t start on the day of his birthday, but it would commence about a week or two, maybe a month later.

I’m not making this up.

Dad died just a bit past his 59th birthday, on Sept. 7, 1980.

I’ve since gone a good bit past that point in my own life. I’m 64, about to turn 65.

And what I’ve discovered myself doing is referencing my next birthday.

I don’t say that I’m 65. Instead, I usually say, “I am going to be 65 in December.” I’ve been saying that since, oh, this past June.

Why am I sounding a bit like my father? It might have something to do with the anticipation I’m feeling toward retirement.

I become eligible for Medicare benefits when I turn 65. I’ll start collecting a small pension from a previous employer effective on my 65th birthday. I’ll become fully vested in Social Security when I turn 66, so that date is looming quite large as well.

As for Medicare, I learned some time ago that my Veteran Administration health care enrollment makes it unnecessary for me to sign up for any of the supplemental coverage that Medicare offers — and I had that notion reaffirmed by a friend of mine who works extensively with elderly medical patients.

It’s not a bad thing that I’m sounding more like my father. He was a good man with a fairly compelling and outsized personality.

Perhaps I should take some advice that my mother offered many years ago. I’d say “I can’t wait” for something to happen, or “I wish it was the weekend.”

Her response: Don’t wish your life away.

The older I get and the closer I get to retirement, Mom’s advice is coming in loud and clear.